Identified! FL - Big Cypress Natl Preserve, Male Hiker, Denim & “Mostly Harmless” Jul'18 - Vance Rodriguez #5

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COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- Collier County investigators are looking for help identifying a man who was found dead in a remote campground in Big Cypress National Preserve.
According to the Collier County Sheriff's Office, the unidentified man was found on July 23rd in Noble's Camp, approximately 5 miles north of Interstate 75.
He had no identification, and it appeared that he had been living in the preserve.

Investigators want help identifying man found dead at preserve campsite

Law enforcement has created a composite sketch of what the man may have looked like. He is described as being between 35 and 50 years old, 5-foot-8 and a very lean 83 pounds, with salt and pepper hair and beard. The deceased man had blue/gray eyes and his teeth were in excellent condition. He was found wearing a beige shirt, green shorts, and black Salomon hiking boots. He was also using hiking equipment including black and copper Outdoor Products hiking poles and a two-person yellow Brooks-Range Mountaineering brand, Foray model tent.

Authorities trying to identify body found in Big Cypress Preserve - Naples Herald

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Not many changes below, but here is an update of the Timeline:

Big Cypress John Doe Timeline

NAMUS Link: Unidentified Person Case

April 2017 – He told people he started hiking in New York in April 2017. Possibly was wearing jeans when he started hiking which is where he said his trail name “Denim” came from.

June 2017 – He told people he met that he went for a 2 week hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in New York in June 2017.

June 2017 – Hiker (RS) met him on the AT in New York. He claimed he had been working for a big company and recently quit his job. He said he had been living in Bear Mountain Park, NY for 2 weeks before deciding to hike South on the AT. Google Maps

June or July 2017 – Hiker (CD) met him in New York at the visitor center in Unionville, NY (Date is my estimate based on map) Google Maps

June or July 2017 Hiker (WF8) posting on the Mountain Crossings Walasi-yi page claims to have met him in a church basement in Duncannon, PA. (Date is my estimate based on map). Google Maps

28 July 2017 – Hiker (IHTPT) claims to have met him on the AT at Raven Rock shelter in Maryland. AT shelters: RavenRock Raven Rock Shelter

Early Aug 2017 –Hiker (SMJ) claims to have seen him hiking somewhere near Shenandoah, VA with an older woman with grey dreads. Google Maps

Sept 2017 Hiker (Obsidian) took a photo of him reading the logbook in the Mountain Home Hostel in Front Royal, Virginia. Another photo at the same table was posted on the hostel fb page Sept 22.
Mountain Home

27 Sept 2017 – Hiker (MJO) met up with Denim while hiking the AT in Bland County, VA near the Helvey’s Mill Shelter. He told her he was headed for Georgia. AT shelters: HelveysM Helveys Mill Shelter

Oct 2017 – A hiker (HRH) posting on the Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi page photo claims to have hiked with him for a week in Oct.

7th - 8th Oct 2017 – A hiker (KEV) met him in Virginia and knew him as Denim. KEV said his pack was 53 1/2 pounds in Damascus, VA -- she took a photo of it on the scales because it was so heavy she almost toppled over trying it on. KEV took a selfie and several other photos of him in Damascus. They had been stuck in Woodchuck’s Hostel in Damascus for 2 days due to a hurricane hitting the trail (Most likely was rain from Hurricane Nate: Hurricane Nate - Wikipedia ). Google Maps

7 Oct 2017 – He went out to eat at Damascus Pizza Co Bar and Grill with KEV and several other hikers.
Google Maps

Nov 2017 – Hiker (DB) met him at Trey Mountain shelter on the AT. He told DB he did IT work in NYC and was going to Florida. AT shelters: TrayMtn Tray Mountain Shelter

2 Dec 2017 – Photo of “Denim” holding up maps posted to the “Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi” Facebook page—Mountain Crossings is a store located near Blood Mountain in Georgia. He purchased maps to hike the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama and told the owner he was heading for Key West, Florida. Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi

Dec 2017 - GoPro Video of him was taken by another hiker at the top of Springer Mountain: Collier County Sheriff's Office

Dec 2017 – Hiker (DBIH) claims he camped with him at Springer Mountain Shelter on the AT. They talked about Dr. Who, liking Sci-fi, working in IT and their fathers. DBIH claims he mentioned an ex-girlfriend and a sister but no names. AT shelters: Springer Springer Mountain Shelter

4 Dec 2017 – Hiker (MM) met him on Springer Mountain and posted about it to the Mountain Crossings facebook post on Dec 5th. MM took a photo of him with his poles in front of the bronze plaque on the summit at the end of the Appalachian Trail.

Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi

(info about the plaque: https://www.atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails/springer-mountain-2-mile-hike/ )

29 Dec 2017 – Hikers HW and JC took a photo of him standing in front of a Nisan Frontier Truck on Salem Church Road—the first road crossing of the Pinhoti trail just South of the AL/GA State Line. Google Maps

Photo info

Jan 2018 – Hiker (K) took a photo of him while holding a “thru hike” sticker in Crestview, Florida, on Hwy 90, West of town.

Jan 2018 – A hiker (PE) met him on the Pinhoti in January; he told PE he was only doing 10 miles a day.

24-25 Feb 2018 – A camper (BV) met him at Sand Pond Campground is in Pine Log State Forest, in Ebro, FL. He left from there headed for the FL trail. He told BV he had been staying with his sister in Sarasota or Ft. Myers, FL and started in that area. He also talked to BV about some health problems and needed/wanted to do this trip while he still could.

Google Maps

March 2018- A hiker (AK) met him on the Florida Trail near the Aucilla River section; he was heading South bound and said he planned on reaching the southern terminus sometime in July. He told AK that he had started on the FT in Blackwater. Florida Trail, Aucilla River | Florida Trail Hikes

March 2018 - A hiker (AL) met him in the Ocala National Forest. Google Maps

March 2018- A hiker (BW) saw him just 1 hour south of the 88 store. He was heading south bound on the FT, healthy and in good spirits. Google Maps

23 July 2018 The Unidentified man was found deceased in his tent in Big Cypress National Preserve at a remote campsite called Noble's Camp, approximately 5 miles north of Interstate 75.

Google Maps

Physical Description and Other Info

35 to 50 years old

5-foot-8

a very lean 83 pounds

salt and pepper hair and beard

blue/gray eyes

his teeth were in excellent condition

He had no tattoos

Possible indistinct fine linear scar across abdomen. Very faint.

He died only a few days before he was found

There were no obvious injuries and the death does not appear suspicious from a criminal perspective

Clothing and Accessories:

Beige Shirt

Neon green (w/gray accents) Shorts

Gray Russell "Performance" Underwear size M

Columbia baseball hat, very dirty possibly gray and white

Yellow two man tent – Manufacturer: Brooks-Range Mountaineering, Model: Foray

Yellow sleeping bag

Two hiking poles, black and copper color. Brand "Outdoor Products"

One yellow and gray Isobutane 110 G fuel cartridge

Bluegreen Nalgene water bottle

black Salomon hiking boots

Aliases/Hiking Names Used: “Denim”,“Mostly Harmless” & “Ben Bilemy”

He used the alias "Ben Bilemy" to register at several hostels along his trek from New York to Florida on the AT and FT. He stayed at Hostels in VA, GA and FL.

May have ties to New York City, New York and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

May have worked in the tech industry.

Information from other Hikers who met him:

He claimed to have worked in the “tech world” for a decade prior to starting hiking.

Hiker (MJO) says he claimed he was only hiking about 10 miles a day.

Hiker (KEV) says he told her he was heavy body weight-wise when he first started hiking and had lost a lot of weight since then. Other hikers heard similar stories that he had lost weight. KEV also says she believes he paid for everything in cash. KEV says he told her he did not keep any social media accounts due to hackers and did not have a cell phone.

He was hiking the ECT, Eastern Continental Divide & and he decided to do it with no phone & no GPS

Known to be a very experienced hiker with very good quality equipment

He was working for food during the hike

He was said to be an extremely friendly but quiet guy

Source Post for above

Listed on the ECT Thru-Hike's website as part of the ECT class of 2018 as “Mostly Harmless”

Class of 2018 – Florida Trail Hikers Alliance

Source Links

Collier County Sheriff Facebook posts:

Collier County Sheriff's Office

Collier County Sheriff's Office

Collier County Sheriff's Office

GoPro Video taken on Top of Springer Mountain: Collier County Sheriff's Office

Groups Where his Photo was posted:

Pinhoti Trail Alliance:
Pinhoti Trail Alliance Post

Mountain Crossings:
Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi

Florida Trail Association:
Florida Trail Association

Florida Trail Hikers Alliance:
Florida Trail Hikers Alliance

FTthruHIKE:
FTthruHike

The Trek:

Authorities Need Help Identifying a Hiker Who May Have Hiked the AT - The Trek

Mountain Home Hostel:

Mountain Home

Unidentified and Unclaimed facebook

Unidentified and Unclaimed Facebook

Florida National Scenic Trail - Big Cypress National Preserve (U.S. National Park Service)

Media Links:

Investigators want help identifying man found dead at preserve campsite

http://naplesherald.com/2018/08/03/...-identify-body-found-in-big-cypress-preserve/

Collier Sheriff's Office asks for help to identify man found dead in Big Cypress Preserve

Unidentified, decomposed body found in Florida woods; Some think he's a Baton Rouge native

Dead hiker may have ties to New York state

Who is 'Ben Bilemy?' Florida police try to uncover identity of mystery hiker found dead near Everglades

CCSO shares alias of hiker who died in Big Cypress National Preserve

ID of man found dead in Big Cypress Preserve still unclear after hikers send photos, tips

DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN? Collier Co. deputies need your help ID'ing man's body found

Hiker found dead in Florida could be from New York

Hiker found dead went by 'Denim' and 'Mostly Harmless' on the trail, but investigators don't know his real name

https://www.winknews.com/2018/08/23/collier-deputies-release-video-of-hiker-prior-to-death/
 
It's over, everybody. We know who he is. Like most of us imagined all along, it just took the right person seeing the right photos/media and we have an Id. Expect an official announement soon. God bless all the thousands of people who took this case on. It pays off.


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Wow, I can’t believe it: after all this time. I am so happy and await further updates.

Everyone has worked so hard on this case!


I can’t get over the photo of him, he looks so young there. It makes me feel sad at the same time.

lots of strange emotions for me today with this.
 
Well, the - deleted by elmomom- info would definitely point to -deleted- .


I think, of all the info that you could float on this thread that is the worst. Please reconsider your comment, from everything out there it seems to be pretty insignificant in his life at the time he went on his hike, and not the way I think anyone would choose to be remembered by. He deserves better than voyeuristic commentary.
 
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I am glad we have an ID and I just am so surprised he looks exactly the same. All the speculation that maybe his appearance was drastically different now, but it wasn't. I think the key was getting the photos in the right place. So much work went into this by so many. Thank you all that helped to bring this man home and to give some closure to his family.
 

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